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Gov't issues warning over increasing number of jellyfish in southern waters

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A diver observes a Nomura's jellyfish in waters off the city of Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Yonhap
A diver observes a Nomura's jellyfish in waters off the city of Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Yonhap

By Ko Dong-hwan

Unusually large numbers of Nomura's jellyfish that are drifting in Korean waters have triggered the government here to issue a warning. The giant jellyfish has long tentacles that can deliver a painful sting that in rare cases could even be life threatening to humans.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the National Institute of Fisheries Science (NIFS) on July 19 issued the Level 2 warning against the jellyfish throughout the country's oceans spanning from the waters east of Jeju Island to the eastern coast of North Gyeongsang Province.

The warning is the third-highest among the country's four-tier notification system for jellyfish. Level 2 is issued when more than 5 moon-jellyfish or more than one Nomura's jellyfish are spotted within an area of 100 square meters of waters under the jurisdictions of more than one city or county.

Nomura's jellyfish can grow up to 2 meters in length and weigh up to 200 kilograms. They usually reside in waters between China and Japan. Their numbers, however, have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. Experts say the reasons include rising ocean temperatures due to climate change and overfishing of other varieties of sea life.

The jellyfish was named after Kanichi Nomura, director-general of the Fukui Prefectural Fisheries Experimentation Station, who discovered the jellyfish in 1921. It was later confirmed as an unknown species.

The first of the latest reports of Nomura's jellyfish in Korean waters came on June 23 from waters of South Jeolla Province and Jeju Island. It prompted the government to issue a Level 2 warning shortly after.

The jellyfish, however, expanded in number and moved to waters surrounding the country's southern and eastern coasts. As of July 19, as many as 10 jellyfish per 100 square-meter area were spotted in waters off South Gyeongsang Province. Up to 2 jellyfish per 100-square-meter area were found in waters off Busan. They were also spotted in waters off Ulsan at the bottom of the country's east coast, and moved further up to waters off North Gyeongsang Province. In both areas, they were found at a rate of one per 100-square-meter area.

According to the NIFS, the jellyfish recently found in Korean waters first arrived from China's East Sea last May. They approached southern Korean waters in June and moved up to North Gyeongsang provincial waters in July. Authorities said they anticipate the jellyfish will move to waters off Gangwon Province by early August in a thick concentration.

The ministry said it will start removing the jellyfish from Korean waters using ships equipped with nets and pumps to suck jellyfish from the ocean. Authorities have ordered local municipalities that had reported the jellyfish in their waters to monitor their numbers every week.

The ministry's fishery resources policy bureau chief Jeong Gi-won also warned the public so people visiting beaches can avoid getting stung by the jellyfish. Jeong also requested people who spot jellyfish to report them to the NIFS or local authorities.

Ko Dong-hwan

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